At least 13 people were injured in Kinshasa on Wednesday after riot police fired tear gas in clashes with demonstrators protesting against last week’s presidential elections in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Despite a government ban, supporters from several opposition groups gathered in the city to press their claims for a rerun of the presidential and legislative polls.
They say the election was fraudulent and should be annulled. President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration has dismissed the demands.
The disputed vote threatens to further destabilise the DRC, which is grappling with a security crisis in the east that has hampered development in the world’s top producer of cobalt and other industrial minerals and metals.
Police surrounded the headquarters of Martin Fayulu, one of five presidential
challengers who had called on their supporters to march in Kinshasa.
“He did not win the election, his victory is fraudulent,” said one protester, who gave his name as Jean-Pierre.
The opposition vowed to proceed even after the government banned the protest on Tuesday, saying it was intended to undermine the work of the national election commission (CENI) as it compiles results that show Tshisekedi with a strong lead.
Police fired tear gas and threw rocks at people outside and inside the headquarters, who were also throwing rocks, a witness said.
Fayulu, who’s the leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, accused the security forces of heavy-handedness and said 11 people had been injured.
“You see how the police attacked us. Our program was simple: gather little by little and head to CENI headquarters,” he told journalists.
Members of Fayulu’s team carried injured protesters from the scene to hospital. Nearby, young protesters also set tyres alight.
Kinshasa police chief Blaise Kilimba Limba said two police officers had been injured by stones as well as a number of civilians.
Attempts to gather elsewhere in the city were rapidly thwarted amid the heavy security presence. Some protesters tried to block roads with burning tires before police intervened.
In a sign of tension elsewhere, supporters of one local candidate, briefly blocked roads and disrupted traffic with burning tires in the eastern city of Butembo, before dispersing.
The unrest follows the 20 December vote, which was marred by delays delivering election kits, malfunctioning equipment and disorganised voting lists.
Violence also disrupted the poll in some places.
The protest organisers have criticised the CENI’s decision to extend voting at polling stations that failed to open on election day, calling it unconstitutional and grounds for a full re-run.
Some independent observers have also said the extension undermines the credibility of the poll.
CENI has acknowledged there were delays but denied that the legitimacy of the election was compromised by extending some voting.
Its latest tally on Tuesday put Tshisekedi well ahead of his 18 challengers, with almost 79 percent of around 6.1 million votes counted so far.
Around 44 million were registered to vote, although the number of ballots cast remains unknown.